Solomo

10 Startups to Watch in 2018

Solomo implements Salesforce, the leading provider of CRM, through a unique platform that integrates common applications and systems, knocks down the barriers between them, and eliminates the technical debt accrued from having bad data.

Founders/Management Team
Dan Kauppi, president, has spent much of his career helping companies perform better through the use of enterprise software and cloud computing. He has been an entrepreneur since 2013 when he founded NEXMachine.

Eric McMasters, executive vice president, came from a lengthy career in engineering services before quitting a full-time job and co-founding two startups, Lumec Control Products and Mid-Illini Technical Group, in 2007. Lumec Control Products failed in 2014, and Mid-Illini Technical Group is now Cintal.

What is your company’s “elevator speech”?
Solomo can help your organization knock down the barriers between applications and eliminate the technical debt resulting from bad data. With its platform, your apps and software will communicate and work together, instead of each being its own standalone tool. All of your organization’s data is synchronized across every application, eliminating the frustrations of having no common source of truth about customers and the all-too-common “master spreadsheet” that tracks and summarizes everything your company has ever done.

What makes your services unique or different from other solutions on the market?
Imagine a $25 million manufacturer—they’re going to have an ERP, a CRM, a general ledger, Excel spreadsheets, email, mobile phones and everything else. Every time they land a new customer or start a new project, they capture information in a dozen different places and that data is not reconcilable.

There is no one place they can go to look up information about their customers: who their salesperson is, how often the company is interacting with them, how well they do paying their bills, etc. Companies have data everywhere with no idea what the source of truth is, until now.

As companies shift to the cloud, they start to deploy technologies like Salesforce and incorporate other cloud-based applications. Instead of the traditional middleware, Solomo has created a platform that connects all these things together. It's more than integration; it becomes your master data. Now you're looking at one spot where you're synchronizing all of this client information.

So when someone goes into their accounting software, they can bring up their customer information; it’s married with their Salesforce software and marketing automation software. Everything is connected.

By making the most common applications talk to each other, it changes how people work. It allows them to stop doing things that are unproductive. They know where they should be spending their time, so they can truly monetize the value of their work. When they take an action, they can immediately see the results. Employees can spend more time in front of the customer. They are more engaged. They’re probably going to do a better job. It changes the model altogether.

How did you come up with the idea?
Getting the data into Salesforce and integrating with external systems is fraught with risk. Many business owners and managers have no idea how bad their data is until we get into the project. All of the assumptions (about timelines, risks, costs, etc.) have already been set, but shortly after the project kicks off, these assumptions are blown up when the truth is uncovered. That’s when project go badly… very badly. We decided that we were going to take this challenge head-on. Not only will solving this problem improve the value of the services we deliver, it also creates enormous value for Solomo. We are solving what may be the single biggest technical challenge facing small to medium-sized businesses.

What key milestones has your company achieved so far?
We have grown from two to 10 employees since March of 2017. We started with a few clients and now have over 20 active clients that we are providing services for.

Did you have assistance from local entrepreneurial resources, or were there other key individuals who helped you launch?
We are based in the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center, so we get business advice and help from Ross Miller, Kevin Evans and Karen Smallberger. Without the Innovation Center, we would have never made a connection or started the company. Being so close in proximity to Bradley University has helped tremendously.

What key milestones do you hope to achieve in 2018?
We are focused on sales and growth. At the current rate of growth, we should double our 2017 revenue and add six to 10 more full-time employees.

What has been the biggest challenge so far on your startup journey?
The biggest challenge so far is cash flow. We can grow about as fast as we can handle the work. We could hire four people right now, but we won't be able to pay them until we get paid. Sure, it would be great to have a million-dollar buffer or line of credit, but we're choosing to grow organically... and we're trying to get on top of collecting. That's a big part of this business.

What lessons have you learned from previous startups?
Dan:
We started NEXMachine to create applications for manufacturers’ distributors as well as a mobile app called Activity Hub. We took funding and were urged to get out of services to focus on the app… which turned out to be catastrophic for us because it eliminated our primary source of revenue and assumed funding that never materialized. To top it off, Salesforce came up with a product that functioned strikingly like ours, about the same time that all of the Salesforce employees using our app suddenly stopped using it.

I've also learned the truly multidisciplinary facets of being a company. You start a company because you’re really good at something. But guess what—there are 10 other things you have to worry about: hiring, accounting, collecting, billing, just dealing with employees from day to day… And not only do you have to be good at it, you have to be focused on it. If you screw up collecting bills, you’re out of business; it doesn't matter how many customers you have. There’s a lot of choreography that goes on with that.

What advice do you have for other prospective entrepreneurs?
The best piece of advice we both agree on is to be persistent. Everyone fails. Lessons learned from failure are priceless. It’s an invaluable ingredient in your eventual success.

Anything else you’d like to add?
Solomo is going to be the coolest place to work. If you’re in Peoria, it's a no-brainer. If you're in Chicago, you might want to consider moving to Peoria. We are building a culture and a work environment that is unparalleled, and provides opportunities that you don’t have sitting in a cubbyhole or cubicle farm. Being here in the Peoria NEXT Innovation Center and having proximity to Bradley, we're going to find the most passionate, brightest risk takers. Our employees are going to have fun and achieve goals that you rarely have an opportunity to do in your career. iBi

For more information, visit solomo.io.

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